A Way Back to Soul – Part 11

Today I’m blogging about “authority,” and it’s going to take more than one post to cover…

I’m convinced that many people throw out the spirituality baby with the religious bathwater over what they perceive to be ridiculous arguments related to authority.  Authority is a way of talking about who you decide is right when there ain’t no way to prove it, and we deal with it all the time (though most of the time it has nothing to do with religion).

You’ve decided you need an electric spaghetti fork, and, by gosh, you want the best electric spaghetti fork ever created by the hands of humanity.  Things get tricky.  One website says that Bugle Corp. makes the best one available, while another site insists that the Bugle model is garbage.  The BeCool model gets an average customer review of 4 stars on the Ya-Gotta-Buy-It-Here.com site, but there’s that one customer who rated it with just one star (“It electrocuted my dog”).

What are you going to do?  How are you going to decide?  Who are you supposed to believe?

Freud would hypothesize that if you don’t like your mother, and your mother owned an electric spaghetti fork from Bugle, you’re buyin’ the BeCool model.  You would, of course, convince yourself that your mother had nothing to do with the decision.

See how authority works?

I’m sorry to say that authority runs a similar game when it comes to theology.

John Calvin said humanity has been so thoroughly corrupted by sin that individuals are not capable of turning to God on their own.  Jacobus Arminius disagreed.  He argued that every person has some spark of God’s creation within his or her soul which can resonate with the God’s call.  Thousands of people, a whole heck of a lot smarter than you and me, have argued this one theological point for hundreds of years and, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to learn, no one has won this argument.

You know what’s even more interesting?  There are actual people out who have decided to try the Jesus-thing who were influenced toward that path by the Calvinist tradition.  And there are others who reached that decision through the Arminian tradition.  And maybe even more interesting,  I’ve met folks who are brilliant at building cases for one tradition over the other, and who are also some of the meanest people I’ve ever met.

Multiply this dilemma by the several thousand theological issues that Christians have creatively found a way to fight about, and you might hear Jesus whispering, “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” Bazinga!

If religion has lost its appeal for you, perhaps it would be worth your time to reflect on some questions related to authority:
  • Who first told you what you were supposed to “believe” when it came to religious faith?
  • What do you know about where those folks got their ideas about what is “true?”
  • What were told about the consequences of not believing correctly?

About Wes Eades

I've been a pastoral counselor, marital therapist, and overall listening ear since about 1989 or so.
This entry was posted in Spiritual Formation, Spirituality. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to A Way Back to Soul – Part 11

  1. Emily says:

    Not sure about your questions, but depending on the person/authority, I can be either skeptical or welcoming. Unlike many sciences, it’s fairly fluid as to whom is or is not an authority in any field. Even more so with theology. In my church not every one agrees, but everyone’s voice is welcomed because our church is a Home. Hard to say about authority, but I’ve learned a lot about love. Paraphrasing Romans 12:9-21, “Love must be sincere. Don’t harp on each other’s faults. Throw out the bad stuff, love the good. With love, be devoted to each other. Honor one another above yourselves. Don’t lack for zeal to serve Jesus. Practice hospitality. Live in harmony with one another. If it comes down to you and if it’s possible, live at peace with everyone.” Yeah, difficult to say about authority, but Jesus did give to everyone a tremendous authority (if not responsibility), to love, honor, and to forgive each other no matter what the disagreement.

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